Horizon Weekly | 15 April 2020
By Karen L Willoughby
Canadian National Baptist Convention churches quickly became masters of “touching” their congregations in various ways as a result of “stay home” directives over the last month.
Phone calls, emails and a variety of social media ways of ministering both to the church family and the community outside the church have become the norm. Members have been tasked with becoming their neighbourhood’s minister, making sure no one goes without food or friendly, Christ-centred contact.
Handmade door hangers with the words, “I’m praying for you” or “Let our family know how we can help you and your family” appear in towns across the 9,306-kilometre-wide nation.
Now it’s Holy Week, leading to Resurrection Sunday—Easter—and even more innovative ways of touching Canada’s people with the Gospel.
Several churches are banding together for Palm Sunday services on Friday. This involves splicing and editing feeds from those several churches so they come together seamlessly.
This is almost a type of dress rehearsal for Sunday when virtual choirs and orchestras will perform before pastors bring messages of hope that Jesus conquered death, a particularly poignant message when the nation is dealing with an increasing number of pandemic-related deaths.
In addition to these major online productions will be the hundreds of simple services utilizing a smartphone and Facebook Live.
One apparently overwhelmed pastor answered the first of the Horizon’s queries about Easter plans with, “At the moment I have no idea what we are going to do. I really haven’t thought that far ahead. I will let you know if we think of something.”
Several others responded with some version of, “I don’t have a clue.” Their words are being published for all the other pastors who like them have been thrust into new technology at the same time they’re trying to minister to a congregation that too often is filled with “fear and anxiety,” as one pastor described it.
On the other hand, three churches in southeast Calgary—Southwinds, The Junction and Multiply, part of the Community Life Network, were making 180 Easter bags for members’ children, to be dropped off the week outside homes before Easter. Bags purchased at Michaels were being filled with a small toy, Easter eggs and chocolate candy and an Easter read-aloud storybook.
“We will also be utilizing the bags as an outreach for our communities, dropping off at doorsteps of families in our neighbourhoods,” said Elaine Shaneyfelt, a minister at The Junction Church. “We’ll be delivering to our families with kids, and then to the community.”*
The three Community Life Network churches have planned daily readings and responses “for people during Holy Week leading up to Easter,” said Bo Neal, lead pastor of Southwinds Church. The Network is also going to have a collaborative Good Friday service at 10:30 a.m. Mountain Time Friday, April 10.
For many churches, the Lord’s Supper, communion, is an important Easter tradition. Those who thought far enough ahead were able to order individually wrapped vials of juice and wafer and take them to members’ homes. Those who didn’t, talked two weeks before Easter of the possibility of taking a child-size container of grape juice and a small package of crackers to members’ homes.
Westlynn Baptist in North Vancouver is pre-recording a virtual choir, but the emphasis will be placed on the preaching of a sermon titled “Finding Peace in a World of Panic,” Pastor Sam Chua told the Horizon.
“To be honest, I haven’t given Easter much thought yet, as we have scrambled to figure out new ways to be the church,” said John Evans in late March. He’s pastor of Community Baptist Church in Charlottetown, PEI. “We may join with other churches in the area to do an online Good Friday service but we’re still ironing out the details of how it would work. What Easter Sunday morning will look like is yet to be determined. It will probably look quite similar to what we’re doing already.”
Eric Dizon, the pastor of Bridge International Church in Calgary, said his Easter message would be about Jesus’ triumph and the blessings this pandemic could be.
“Self-isolation is God’s way of telling us to spend more time with Him,” Dizon said. “Let’s go to our secret place: Psalm 91:1. Let’s abide in Him, reflect and devote more time with Him.
“This is a time for us to be a team, to encourage one another, and for us not to allow this situation to prevent us from communicating and building a relationship with others,” the pastor continued. “This is the best opportunity for us to reach out to the lost and share the love of Jesus.”
*The community of Legacy, located in Southeast Calgary, is where the Community Life Network plans to start their next church. Shaneyfelt reported, “I posted a picture of the Easter bags on Facebook on the Legacy Community page last night stating my church made these bags for kids and I have 50 that I will deliver to your front door for Easter. Within 12 hours, I had 24 families respond! I delivered all of the bags today with a couple of them sending me pictures of their kids opening their bags, with heartfelt thanks and appreciation from the families.”